The Greenwood Mills company is an old, South Carolina outfit under siege because, of course, nobody can make money in textile manufacturing in the U.S. anymore, as we have all been told over and over and over and over again. In dire straits, the family owned company went outside the clan and hired a real pro to straighten things out. Not a manufacturing expert, mind you – no need for a manufacturing guy to straighten out a manufacturing company since textile manufacturing is no longer possible in the U.S. – no, they brought in a turnaround guy from a high powered gang called Anderson, Bauman, Tourellot, Vos & Company.
The boys from ABTV & Co are great strategic thinkers, and one of their own penned an article explaining just what it takes to get an old South Carolina textile manufacturer into the fast lane. The title of the article is impressive all by itself: "Smart Textiles and Smart Strategies Are Key To Industry Survival". The ABTV recipe is (1) Outsource Production "because it is impossible for US textile firms to compete in high volume price sensitive categories"; (2) Tighten Supply Chain Logistics (Presumably because production has been outsourced so herding the textiles all over the globe can be tricky); (3) Practice Strong Branding (To create the illusion of value even if reality may be otherwise – "quality is not enough" say the boys at ABTV); (4) Go after ‘smart textiles’ through nanotechnology (Goes without saying – who would want to be seen wearing a pair of blue jeans without embedded nanotechnology?); and (5) Explore non-woven product technologies (In other words, find a different line of work).
So the Greenwood Mills folks turned the company over to the turnaround guy hell bent on outsourcing and nanotechnology blue jeans, and he promptly closed down a couple of Greenwood Mills plants, and began muddling around in Mexico (Remember, the ABTV wizard knew – as we all do – that it is impossible for US firms to compete.)
Apparently the copy of the ABTV article sent to Michael Rickman got lost in the mail and he turned out to be one of the few guys in the state of South Carolina who didn’t know that it is impossible for US firms to compete in textiles. He is the president of a company called Liberty Denim, which is a bunch of similarly ignorant folks who got together and bought one of the plants the turnaround hotshot closed. They hired another guy too dumb to know any better to run the plant named Charles Abbott, who promptly hired back all of the old Greenwood Mills employees and started making denim again. A whole lot of denim, in fact, 50 million pairs of blue jeans worth, so far, and all without any nanotechnology in ’em.
Lucky for the uninformed guys at Liberty Denim, they stumbled across the buyers at VF, the company that owns Wrangler, Lee, Rustler and a bunch of other brands, who, as it turns out, were even dumber than the Liberty Denim guys. Instead of buying in Mexico and Honduras, which everyone knows is the only place to buy textiles, the VF buying nitwits bought all of that denim from the Liberty manufacturing nitwits, even though it was impossible for the US folks to compete with the folks in Mexico and Honduras.
The chain of stupidity continued all the way down to us customers and, by the time enough folks who didn’t know any better were lined up, the Liberty Denim people were paying out $5.5 million a year in payroll to American textile workers, and another $25 million a year to other South Carolina businesses, and the company is cranking out 350,000 yards of denim a week from the same plant the turnaround guy shut down. And all of this because there are so many people scattered around South Carolina too intellectually challenged to understand what the turnaround guys made so clear – it is impossible for US textile firms to compete.
The end of the story is that all of the Liberty Denim employees are going to have a big party this weekend, with music and hot dogs and Dale Earnhardt Jr’s NASCAR car that Wrangler sponsors, and VF will be there to give everyone a pair of Wrangler jeans, and Liberty is giving them all a tee shirt, and the whole thing is going to be a grand celebration of just how much people can accomplish when they don’t know what they are doing is impossible.
Over at Greenwood Mills, the family owners decided that maybe they were just mismanaging things and they they have quietly thanked the turnaround guy and sent him on his way and they have regained family leadership and it looks like they are going to try to do the impossible themselves. I don’t know how they are doing – OK so long as they stay away from nanotechnology, I imagine – but I am sure they rue the day they got so much smarter than the folks at Liberty Denim.